Two ERC Advanced Grants for Tübingen Researchers
Linguist Harald Baayen examines mismatches between written and spoken language – Philosophy Professor Klaus Corcilius works on new overall interpretation of Aristotle’s philosophy of mind
Two researchers of Tübingen University have successfully applied for an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). Harald Baayen, Professor for Quantitative Linguistics, examines in his project “Subliminal learning in the Mandarin lexicon“ (SUBLIMINAL) how we can improve second-language learning by taking into account that writing systems hide from our eyes the truth of how we really speak. Professor Klaus Corcilius from the Department of Philosophy devotes his project "Text and Idea of Aristotle’s Science of Living Things" (TIDA) to a new overall interpretation of Aristotle’s philosophy of mind. The projects are funded by the ERC with a sum of 2,5 million euros each for a period of five years, starting this fall.
Linguistic project to enhance vocabulary learning
Central to Harald Baayen’s research project „Subliminal learning in the Mandarin lexicon“ (SUBLIMINAL) is the observation that there are subtle regularities in spoken language that escape our awareness, but play an important role in language learning and language use.
Philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and more recently the cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman, have called attention to how our perception of reality is shaped and filtered by our minds and bodies. Baayen argues that our perception of language is no exception, and that it is filtered through our writing systems. For native speakers, mismatches between writing conventions and everyday spoken language tend not to cause problems. For example, English speakers are not confused when in spontaneous conversation someone says “prolly” instead of “probably”. But when acquiring a new language, Baayen says, "systematic mismatches make learning unnecessarily difficult."
His research project addresses the learning of Mandarin Chinese, a language in which different words can have the same sounds but different pitch melodies (tones). Baayen will examine in detail how Mandarin speakers actually say words, with special attention to how they realize tones. He will also study how the unique writing system of Chinese creates multiple layers of meaning. Using state-of-the-art methods of computer modeling, distributional semantics and statistical analysis, he will investigate how form and meaning align and use the results to enhance methods of vocabulary learning for Mandarin Chinese as a second language.
Professor Rolf Harald Baayen studied General Linguistics at the Free University of Amsterdam. After working as a professor for Quantitative Linguistics at Radboud University in Nijmegen, he held a professorship at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, from 2007. In 2011, a Humboldt Professorship brought him to the University of Tübingen. He is considered one of the most innovative researchers in the field of vocabulary research and quantitative linguistics. As a pioneer in computational and empirical language research and psycholinguistics, he has made fundamental contributions e.g. to the understanding of human language ability and the role of memory in language processing.
Prof. Dr. Harald Baayen
New edition of Aristotle's De Anima
The basic idea of the project "Text and Idea of Aristotle's Science of Living Things" (TIDA) is to break with the interpretive approach that governed research on Aristotle’s so-called ‘psychological’ writings, and in particular on his famous treatise ‘On the Soul (De Anima)’, for more than half a century. According to that approach, De Anima presents us with Aristotle’s ‘philosophy of mind’.
Against this trend, TIDA aims to show that De Anima is not concerned with the philosophy of mind as such and that such a philosophical project would be alien to Aristotle’s way of thinking; rather, what De Anima is concerned with is the definition of the first principle of a much more comprehensive science of living things in general. Klaus Corcilius and his team want to point out how De Anima and other treatises on this topic interact in the scientific explanation of living things, and – most importantly – what the resulting scientific theory of living things then has to say about the issues of the philosophy of mind.
“TIDA wishes to bring out how Aristotle understands the issues and problems of the philosophy of mind from a biological perspective”, says Corcilius. TIDA’s methods are decidedly philosophical-cum-philological. Two objectives are pursued, both of which will be achieved in tandem: subjecting Aristotle’s treatise on the soul, De Anima, and related treatises, to a new and comprehensive philosophical interpretation, while making available the original Greek text in a way that complies with the standards of contemporary textual criticism.
TIDA will produce a reliable critical edition of De anima in print and digital format – so far, such an edition does not exist. As the constitution of the text will crucially depend on the philosophical evaluation of alternative manuscript readings, the closest collaboration between textual critics and philosophers is necessary. The goal are improved original texts and a new and more informative philosophical perspective on Aristotle’s views on the mind. The interdisciplinary five-year research project TIDA is designed to give a new and lasting foundation to future philosophical and philological work on Aristotle’s science of living things.
Klaus Corcilius studied philosophy and Greek philology at the universities of Hamburg and Dublin. After receiving his PhD from Humboldt-Universität Berlin he stayed there as research assistant and then took on a Deputy Professorship at Concordia University Montreal, Canada, in 2008. From 2009 until 2011 Corcilius was a Junior Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Hamburg before becoming Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley for five years. In 2016, he was appointed to the professorship of Ancient Philosophy at University of Tübingen.
Prof. Dr. Klaus Corcilius
Department of Philosophy